Bill Blass: At His Best

Someone opened a window at Bill Blass and let in a big breath of fresh air. The collection he showed on Friday morning was all snap, dash and sizzle. These are clothes that should make his gals look younger and chicer than they have in years -- he'll rope in some of their daughters as well.

For day, Bill was just about perfect. He showed a bounty of colorful, short coats, sometimes doubled-up; slim, high-waisted dresses and others that looked like skirts with sweaters, and shapely, high-buttoned tweed jackets over short skirts or fluid pants.

The proportions struck just the right balance between sophistication and spunk, and it was all detailed with experienced discretion: a camel velvet collar on a pale blue coat, textural fabric mixes that weren't the least bit forced. But what really sets these clothes apart from the pack is the execution. Bill insists on impeccable craftsmanship, and it paid off.

At night, he got into printed velvets and coup de velours that lacked the pep of his day clothes, but the layered iridescent chiffons were light and breezy. And Bill has always known how to take sportswear after hours. A girl could dance till dawn in his gray chiffon mini, then toss on Bill's camel polo coat, head over to the BB Public Catologue Room at the library -- and almost fit in.

Oscar de la Renta

As upbeat as Bill Blass was, the collection Oscar de la Renta showed on Friday was a downer. He shipped off to Mongolia, and by and large, it made for an unfortunate excursion. Oscar was a man possessed with paisley once again, and he sent it out in a blitz -- dresses, suits, tired tunics, pants, huge borders on coats -- until your head spun. But he didn't stop there. By Oscar's lights, the paisleys needed gussying up, so he mixed them with floral brocades, beads and lace. And why not add some gigantic fake cheetah hoods, or for that matter, jeweled tiaras or gold upholstery tassels? It was exhausting.

Once in a while, Oscar took a happy detour. He showed some pretty crepe dresses and coats, and a pair of knock-out velvet gowns, in green and burgundy. But for the most part, the collection drowned in exotica.Ghost: Girly Show

Just when you thought New York was going to drown in chronically safe body covers, along came Ghost on Friday night to inject a dose of sparkling English fantasy into the picture.

It was a frothy, girly romp designed by Tanya Sarne, Angela Southwell and Sophia Malig -- and brilliantly styled by Debbi Mason with a wink, a giggle and lots of neon pink underwear. Some people loved it, some didn't, but nobody left the old Gertrude tent feeling bored.

At times, the supermodels looked like little girls let loose to pillage their dress-up box, having their way with big, swing-skirted dresses, sweet seersucker tops, capri pants, hobble skirts and shrunken sweaters, all in assorted lollipop shades. These were piled on and finished off with powder puff handbags, major cheesecake "diamonds" and Manolo Blahniks that were strappy and spiky enough to feed a foot fetishist's wildest fancies for many a two-step. When they're feeling naughty, Ghost girls can slide on a few peek-a-boo body veils over those garters and electric undies. Barely dressed, they looked amusingly tarty and surprisingly sweet. But when it's just too darn cold to run around in your skivvies, there was plenty more to choose from: mohair sweaters, long or super-shrunken; velour leggings; feisty striped knits, and even low-key black jackets and pants.

Many of which, in fact, were nothing new for Ghost. But then, the point here is that layers and sheer don't have to look tired -- if you know how to work them.

Norma Kamali: True to Form

Norma Kamali flexed so much muscle in her show on Friday that she must be spending most of her time in the gym. There was little room for human error in the seemingly endless parade of skintight, sports-inspired dresses, skirts and tops -- not to mention her gym wear, which was often embellished with appliqued gold stars, the DuPont logo and Norma's own OMO insignia. Even Kamali's Collection pieces were all about the body: a Supplex hooded T-shirt over a fitted long black leather skirt and a black satin six-gore long dress shown with spike heels and a biker helmet. But the real standouts were her wool felt peacoats.Bradley Bayou: Short Circuit

Bradley Bayou likes things short, shaped and sexy. His suits are as clean and snappy as his angora sweaters, micro minis and T-shirt dresses. His black A-line shapes and bare wools with chiffon slips peeking out from under were downright pretty. But Bayou is sometimes a man with too many ideas. Did that threaded silk organza number, for instance, really need eyelash tulle, an angora bolero and Mongolian lamb trim?

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